08.02.2018 – The UN calls on Spain to shield children and adolescents from bullfighting

The UN Committee of the Rights of the Child, the highest international human rights body for minors, today issued a recommendation to Spain following a report presented to it by Fondation Franz Weber (FFW) as part of its campaign "Infancia Sin Violencia" (Children Without Violence). The Committee asks Spain to prevent all children and teenagers from participating in bullfighting events. Spain[D1]  is the 7th of the eight countries in which bullfighting is still legal to be urged by the Committee to ban the activity for minors due to its extreme violence.

The Committee on the Rights of the Child, which monitors the implementation of the United Nations' Convention on the Rights of the Child, today declared its opposition to Spain permitting children and adolescents to participate in and attend bullfighting events.

The Convention on the Rights of the Child states that all children and adolescents have the right to a standard of life that is appropriate for their physical, mental, moral and social development. It also establishes the State's duty to adopt measures that will ensure such protection.

Fondation Franz Weber presented a report to the Committee in February 2017 that drew its attention to bullfighting events in Spain where children witness an extraordinary degree of violence. Similarly, more than 50 bullfighting schools in Spain jeopardize the physical and mental integrity of minors. Through its campaign, “Infancia sin Violencia”, and with the scientific support of CoPPA[D2]  (Coordinadora de Profesionales por la Prevención de Abusos) FFW demonstrated that the Convention has not been respected in the field of bullfighting.

A public session was held in Geneva on 22 January 2018 which brought together the members of the UN Committee and a delegation of the Spanish Government.

“Bullfighting presents extreme violence for childhood. It should be prohibited to all children under 18 years of age: not only those who practice bullfighting, but also those who attend as spectators. In the Committee, we are very concerned about protecting children from exposure to this violence. We hope that the government of Spain and those of its communities will ban children from participating in bullfighting activities,” said Gehad Madi, a member of the Committee on the Rights of the Child.

The response of the Spanish delegation did not convince the Committee. They simply explained that autonomous communities regulate access to bullfighting events, and that participation in certain activities in bullfighting schools are sometimes limited to children 14 years or older. However, the applicable national regulations do not penalize the violence that children are exposed to in this environment.

Therefore, the Concluding Observations issued by the Committee on Spain’s report states that “In order to prevent the harmful effects of bullfighting on children, the Committee recommends that the State party prohibit the participation of children under 18 years of age as bullfighters and as spectators in bullfighting events.”

“The principle of the child's best interest, which is the essence of the Convention, prevails over the right of access to culture,” declares Anna Mulá, Spanish lawyer for Fondation Franz Weber.

The Committee’s new request consolidates the UN's position concerning the violation of children's rights through bullfighting events. It has already called on all countries in which such practices are still legal to ensure the protection of children by removing them from the violence of bullfighting.

“The UN has offered us another argument in our opposition to the cruel, violent and anachronous spectacle that is bullfighting, in which not only bulls and horses are victims, but all of society, including children and young people,” declared Vera Weber, president of Fondation Franz Weber.

Concluding Observations

Anna Mulà, Lawyer and main author of the report
annamula@ffw.ch / Phone: + (34) 670916490 (languages: Spanish and English)
Vera Weber, President & CEO / veraweber@ffw.ch / (+41)79 210 54 04

(For more information please see briefing note on next page)



Fondation Franz Weber

Founded in Switzerland in 1975 by Swiss ecologist Franz Weber, Fondation Franz Weber (FFW) is internationally recognised for its campaigns for nature conservation, protection of animals and cultural heritage. Fondation Franz Weber is based in Switzerland, but operates in many countries around the world, particularly in Europe, Australia, Africa, and Latin America, although the impact of its work can be felt on a global scale.

  • Its goals include the eradication of violence towards animals and human beings in the form of entertainment, and ultimately to abolish the barbarous practice of bullfighting in the eight countries in which it is still legal (Portugal, Colombia, Mexico, Peru, France, Venezuela, Ecuador and Spain).
  • Bullfights where animals are slayed are seen in all countries with the exception of Portugal and some regions of Spain (Balearic Islands) and Ecuador (Quito and some Ecuadorian cantons), where it is prohibited. 

Infancia sin Violencia

  • The campaign “Infancia Sin Violencia” (Childhood Without Violence) was launched by Fondation Franz Weber to raise awareness about the violence of bullfighting events and their negative impact on the physical and mental wellbeing of minors ‒ in addition to the bulls and horses, the violence of bullfighting has other victims: children.
  • It aims to protect children and young people from the violence entrenched in bullfighting and to rectify the serious abuse of rights enshrined in international and national legislation for the protection of children and adolescents.
  • After reviewing reports produced by the Infancia Sin Violencia campaign, the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child has urged the international community to protect children and young people from the violence of bullfighting, taking as its fundamental basis the Convention on the Rights of the Child. 
  • FFW’s investigative reports describe the physical and mental violence to which minors are exposed: those trained in the practice of bullfighting at bullfighting schools and private ranches, those who take part in bullfights as toreros and those who are spectators at various types of bullfighting events.
  • The reports detail bullfighting activities that involve children in Portugal, Colombia, Mexico, France, Peru, Ecuador and Spain.
  • FFW representatives attended pre-sessions and sessions of the Committee and respective government delegations.
  • The Final Observations of the Committee on the Rights of the Child includes a declaration concerning the fulfilment and application of the Convention by those countries in which bullfighting is still legal, particularly with regard to the violation of children's rights when they participate in and attend bullfighting shows.
  • The Committee has called on Portugal (January 2014), Colombia (January 2015), Mexico (June 2015), Peru and France (February 2016), Ecuador (September 2017) and Spain (January 2018) to adopt the relevant legislative, administrative and educational measures to ban bullfighting.
  • Fondation Franz Weber has worked with local bodies in each country to conduct its exhaustive investigative work, including Plataforma Basta in Portugal, Plataforma ALTO in Colombia, and PAE in Ecuador.
  • FFW also received scientific advice from CoPPA – coordinators for the prevention of abuse, which works in the field of human rights, ERAH, a research institute in the Guayas Province (Ecuador) for the study of relationships between animals and humans – a government unit, which works to prevent all types of social violence.

Bullfighting schools, toreros, attending shows at bull rings, and taking part in popular festivals  

  • Hundreds of bullfighting schools exist in these eight countries, with Spain leading the list with 58 schools, followed by Mexico with 45. From a very early age, thousands of children receive lessons on how to inflict deliberate physical harm on a living being using sharp, pointed iron instruments in order to cause injury and even death. This compromises their physical and psychological integrity in the private and public events in which they face the animal.
  • The age of admission to such schools varies depending on the individual centre or regional regulations, but it is common for children as young as five to be accepted, since there is no general legislation that establishes a minimum age. In Spain, the minimum age for taking part in practical lessons with living bovines is 14. Despite the information being jealously guarded and not disclosed publically, children suffer from serious accidents during private training and in public demonstrations. 
  • In these countries, it is possible to become a bullfighting professional (child bullfighter) when still a minor. Children trained at bullfighting schools and ranches perform in public shows simulating a bullfighting festivity.  These performances charge admission fees, making them a form of child exploitation.
  • In addition to the abuse and suffering experienced by the animal, children attending bullfighting events are also subject to images of great violence towards other human beings, through the accidents and deaths that occur during these shows.
  • Every year, bullfighters suffer hundreds of accidents at bull rings which are witnessed by children. Various studies looking at clinical psychology and violence have revealed that the suffering of a living creature applauded by adults at a public event has negative effects on a child's mental health.
  • Of the countries scrutinised, the minimum legal age for attending a bullfight is: Ecuador (16 years); Colombia (14 years, accompanied by an adult: according to the aforementioned studies, this is worse, since the adult is a reference point for the child); Portugal (12 years); Mexico (only the municipality of León, 14 years); and Spain, the Spanish territories of Galicia (12 years) and the Balearic Islands (18 years).
  • In these countries, bullfights are regularly broadcast on television on both public and private channels, causing huge social controversy for showing this content during pre-watershed hours.
  • Apart from bullfights, all these countries host other “popular bullfighting festivals” that are accessible to children. As well as witnessing a large number of shocking scenes ‒ animals bleeding and human beings (sometimes even their own relatives or acquaintances) being seriously injured or violently killed ‒ children are also found among the casualties.